Hakoah Vienna

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Hakoah Vienna
Sport Club Hakoah Wien's Emblem
Full nameSport Club Hakoah Wien
Founded1909, 1945

SC Hakoah Vienna (German: Sport Club Hakoah Wien; Hakoah means "the strength" in Hebrew) is a Jewish sports club in Vienna, Austria.

Prior to World War II, it produced several Olympic athletes and was notable for fielding an entirely Jewish association football team with players drawn from across Europe. Closed down by the Nazis in 1938 following the Anschluss, it re-formed in 1945, though its football team was disbanded in 1949.



A pair of Austrian Zionists, cabaret librettist (Kabarettist) Fritz "Beda" Löhner and dentist Ignaz Herman Körner, founded the club in 1909. Influenced by Max Nordau's doctrine of "Muscular Judaism" (German: Muskeljudentum), they named the club "Hakoah" (Hebrew: הכח‎), meaning "the strength" or "the power" in Hebrew. In its first year, the club's athletes competed in fencing, football, field hockey, track & field, wrestling and swimming.[1]

Hakoah Vienna was one of the first football teams to market themselves globally by travelling frequently where they would attract thousands of Jewish fans to their matches against local teams in cities such as London and New York. Support for Hakoah spread around Europe rapidly as Jews as far as Russia and the United States avidly supported Hakoah Vienna who took advantage of such support by setting up very successful tours and friendlies. As the first "Jewish" team, Hakoah attracted the attention of prominent Jewish figures including author Franz Kafka. In the offseason, Hakoah traveled around the world marketing their success. However, instead of selling jerseys and other merchandise, Hakoah sold Zionism. In preparation for their visits, they sent promoters ahead of the team in order to generate buzz and attract Jewish fans.[2] Hakoah was not new to the notion of global tours; the organization's other teams, like swimming and wrestling had already traveled around the world and won a collection of medals. However, the team did often face anti-Semitism during its world travels. The club created an unconventional form of security, having the Hakoah wrestling team accompany them and act as their personal bodyguards.[3]


From 1922 Hakoah leased a sports ground in the Vienna Prater park. The facilities included an athletics track, a sports stadium, football and handball pitches with seating for 25,000 spectators, tennis courts, a jumping pit, hockey field, cloakrooms and showers, a dining area, and groundkeeper’s accommodation. Hakoah finished second in the Austrian league in 1922.[4]

On the team's trip to London in 1923, they managed to defeat West Ham United by a score of 5–1, admittedly against a largely reserve team. Nevertheless, Hakoah became the first continental club to defeat an English team in England.[4]

Hakoah Vienna football team, 1925

In a dramatic game of the 1924–25 season, Hakoah's Hungarian-born goalkeeper Alexander Fabian broke his arm. The rules at the time did not allow substitutions so Fabian put his arm in a sling and switched positions with a forward. Seven minutes later Fabian scored the winning goal, clinching Hakoah's league championship.

In 1926, the team conducted a highly successful tour of the United States. Their game at New York City's Polo Grounds attracted 46,000 spectators, a record at the time. Many of the team's players, impressed by the relative lack of anti-Semitism they found, decided to stay in the United States, accepting offers to play for American clubs. Several of these players formed a club called New York Hakoah which won the National Challenge Cup in 1929.


A few players emigrated to Mandate Palestine and founded Hakoah Tel Aviv football club there. The loss of so many talented players effectively put an end to the Austrian football team's competitiveness.

The athletic club's success extended beyond the football pitch. Hakoah had highly successful sections in wrestling, fencing, water polo, athletics and swimming with the club producing several Olympic athletes, especially in women’s swimming. As the top Jewish team, Hakoah attracted the attention of prominent Jews including Franz Kafka. The club had its own orchestra and organised balls and other social events. At its pre-war peak, the club had over 8000 members. [4] Watermarks, a 2004 documentary film, tells the story of the Hakoah women's swim team with historical footage from the 1930s and contemporary interviews with surviving team members.

President of the club from 1928 to 1938 was David (known as Dezsö) Herbst, who was the husband of Austria's tennis champion Liesl Herbst. He wrote in the celebratory Festschrift (brochure) on the 25th anniversary of the club in 1934:

"In the days of our forefathers, we Jews have completely forgotten the old and true words in the education of our children: Mens sana in corpore sano! We only thought that the new generation should be educated, we neglected what today the whole world recognises as the only proper educational principle: to make our bodies strong."

By the 1930s Hakoah Vienna was on the receiving end of hatred stirred up by Hitler, and had to travel to matches with their wrestlers as bodyguards. Three days after the Anschluss, the shared club base of Hakoah Sports Club, Hakoah Tourism and Ski Club and the Hakoah Swimming Club at the Viennese Cafe Atlashof, was shut down, with the club assets and stadium seized. The official dissolution of the sports club was administered in the political department IV Ac by the Liquidation Commissioner of the Nazi party. Dezsö Herbst did most of the official work with the Liquidation Commissioner. On 31st March 1938 the liquidator ordered the club to declare and transfer its assets. After the transfer, the final phase of the ‘development’ of Hakoah began. On 16th November 1938, the Liquidation Commissioner sent an application to the Board of the Vienna Police Directorate for a raid on Hakoah Sports Club.

After the Anschluss of 1938, the German Football Association banned the club and nullified their games. Their stadium was appropriated and given to the Nazi party.

Since 1945[edit]

In 1945 the club was founded again and exists today. The football team, which played in the second division of the Austrian championship after World War II, became defunct in 1949.

In 2000, the Jewish community of Vienna purchased the club's old fields within Prater park for 10 million with the intention of building a new community center. As of 2006, the club had about 400 members and its football team plays in Austria's minor leagues under the name SC Maccabi Wien.[5] The club opened its new home on 11 March 2008.[6]

Former players[edit]


Selected former managers[edit]


See also[edit]

  • Arthur Baar, founder and vice president of Hakoah's football club.
  • Judith Haspel, a swimmer from the highly successful Hakoah women's swimming team.
  • Hacoaj, a Jewish club founded in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1935 and named after Hakoah Vienna
  • Hakoah Bergen County, a Jewish amateur football club founded in New Jersey (USA) in 2009 and named after Hakoah Vienna[7]


  • Foer, Franklin (2004). How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-621234-0.
  • "Hakoah-Vienna" in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
  • Encyclopaedia Judaica
  1. ^ Hakoah Sports Divisions, S.C. Hakoah
  2. ^ Foer, Franklin. "How Soccer Explains the World". Harper Perennial, 2004, p. 74.
  3. ^ "Hakoah Wien: Football Pioneers." World Soccer. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. <http://www.worldsoccer.com/blogs/hakoah-wien>.
  4. ^ a b c d Siegman, Joseph M. (2005). "Hakoah-Vienna Club". Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (4th ed.). Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books. pp. 150–151. ISBN 1-57488-951-6.
  5. ^ Barkat, Amiram (25 December 2006). "Vienna Jews get back pre-WWII sporting club". Haaretz. Retrieved 25 December 2006.
  6. ^ Jewish club reopens in Vienna 70 years after Nazis seized it Haaretz, 11 March 2008
  7. ^ "Hakoah back in play – after 73 years".

External links[edit]